Gaoyi Waterfall Group: 6 Big Waterfalls, Northern Taiwan's Natural Water Park! 高義瀑布群：6個大瀑布台灣北部自然水上樂園
Natural Wonder, Natural Water Park! / Parking and Entrance / The First Waterfall (Beginner) / The Curtain Waterfall / The First Water Slide / The Second Waterfall / Up and Over! (Intermediate) / The Third Waterfall / Hard Passage / The Fourth Waterfall / The Second Water Slide / The Fifth Waterfall / The Sixth Waterfall / The nitty-gritty (GPS, GPX, and more)
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This is one of the things that makes river tracing in Taiwan so much fun, you never know who's going to come out to join in on the adventure sports. It's one of the best outdoor activities in Taiwan!
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Introducing this week's adventure:
Gaoyi Waterfall Group: Northern Taiwan's Unbelievable Natural Water Park! 高義瀑布群：台灣北部的自然水上樂園！
The six main waterfalls in Baoliku River's Gaoyi Waterfall Group, Taoyuan, Taiwan
Some places are so amazing that it takes more than one person to really show just how wonderful they are! Here's another collaborative guest post with The Map Room's good friend, Lamin from Funventures Taiwan (瘋狂台樂事), plus a little bit of help with the video from Johan over at Discover Taiwan with Johan!
Natural Wonder, Natural Water Park!
Waterfalls! SO many waterfalls! Plus, natural waterslides and amazing jump spots everywhere! This is Gaoyi's Baoliku River in Taoyuan, Taiwan (台灣桃園高義寶裡苦溪), one of the greatest, most beautiful, most exciting, and most easily accessible waterfall groups on the island. Just a couple of hours' drive from Taipei, it boasts six major waterfalls - one even clearly visible from the road - plus plenty of minor ones. The river itself is well suited for beginners and experienced river tracers alike, and with an early start, it's quite possible to do the whole thing in a day and be back in Taipei in the evening.
Parking and Entrance
DO NOT follow the path on the left (south) side of the bridge - it goes completely the wrong direction, right up a mountain!
Parking is easy. Just pull up to the bridge and find a spot on either side of it - there's plenty of space for plenty of cars.
Tracing up to the first big waterfall from the bridge
Once you're parked, walk to the right (north) side of the bridge and follow the path down. DO NOT follow the path on the left (south) side of the bridge - it goes completely the wrong direction, right up a mountain! You should immediately arrive at the river, and then just start tracing up.
The First Waterfall
(NOT jumpable or slidable!)
You will want to cross to the left side of the river once you're down from the road, then cross again to the right side just before the first big waterfall. Then, look for the ropes and follow the path up around the right side of the waterfall.
The first big waterfall is actually an old dam, but still beautiful!
The first big waterfall is actually an old, abandoned dam. It's beautiful, but cannot be jumped - the water is not deep enough! It's a really nice place to swim, though.
The Curtain Waterfall
(NOT jumpable or slidable!)
If you're lucky, and there's been rain, you may get to see this beautiful curtain waterfall
Once you are up above the first waterfall, look on the left to try to find this curtain waterfall. It's beautiful, but ephemeral. If there hasn't been much rain, it will be much smaller, or not there at all.
Looking back at the curtain waterfall
The First Water Slide
(Jumpable and slidable)
Once you are past the first waterfall (and the curtain waterfall, if you were lucky enough to see it!), you will get to the first water slide (above) and jumping area (below). This water slide looks a little rough and scary, but it's actually pretty smooth - especially further to the right (looking down) - and a lot of fun!
One of the many minor waterfalls not counted in the six major Gaoyi waterfalls in Taiwan
This minor waterfall is just above the water slide. There's a nice, easy jump into the pool in front of it from River Right (the right side, if you're looking downstream towards the waterslide) and a higher one where you need to be more careful from River Left. If you want to try the one on River Left, take a look at the video above to see the exact jump spot, and be careful not to hit the big rock in the water on the left (downstream) side!
The Second Waterfall
(NOT jumpable or slidable!)
Standing on River Right at the jump spot between the minor waterfall (above) and the second big waterfall
The second big waterfall is just above the water slide and the minor waterfall. It might be possible to jump from above this waterfall, but we have not yet found a safe way to get up above it to try. Besides, there's a good jump and a slide just below, and many much higher and more easily accessible jumps not far beyond, so you really aren't missing anything here.
Up and Over!
After the second waterfall, the difficulty of this trace begins to increase. You have to climb a series of ropes up a very steep cliff face, and then again back down the other side. IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: Make sure to go one at a time, with nobody standing directly below any climbers, on this section. There is a real chance of kicking loose rocks down onto someone's head!
This section isn't too difficult, as long as it's not wet (i.e., slippery), you're not afraid of heights, and you are ok with climbing without serious safety equipment. When we were there, we saw a whole family, including children less than 10 years old, who had climbed up and over to the 3rd waterfall! This is one of the things that makes river tracing in Taiwan so much fun, you never know who's going to come out to join in on the adventure sports. It's one of the best outdoor activities in Taiwan!
Justin climbs up the first cliff face, after the second waterfall
This old, thick cable runs through the whole valley, and you see it once in a while...
David climbs down the second cliff face, just before the third waterfall
Climbing down to the third waterfall (above, below)
Climbing up and down the cliff to the third waterfall is a real adventure, and pretty exciting! For me, it's a lot of fun, and one of the things I really look forward to every time I visit Gaoyi Waterfall Group.
Climbing down the far side of the cliff, in front of the third waterfall
The Third Waterfall
(NOT jumpable, not safely slidable (see below)!)
The view of the third waterfall from the cliff climbing section
The third waterfall is beautiful and rewarding. It is much taller and more impressive than the first and second ones, and much more like some of the better known waterfalls in Taiwan. You first see it from a distance as you climb down the cliff over top of the second waterfall. It has a bit of a bump in the middle, but somehow that only makes it appear that much more graceful and elegant.
The third waterfall, as viewed from the cliff climbing section
It's a tall waterfall with a deep pool flowing over smooth stone, and people have slid down it (and probably jumped from the side as well). Some of the other waterfalls further upstream are great for sliding down, but it's VERY DANGEROUS TO SLIDE DOWN THIS WATERFALL!!
Recently, we met a group of tracers here who were sliding and jumping as many waterfalls as they could. They had had no problem at waterfall 4 and later, but once they got back to waterfall 3, the bump shot them out so that they landed face and chest first. There was no way for them to correct this while flying through the air, several were injured, and one went to the hospital with a possible concussion. Fortunately, they were able to tell us in lots of detail about what had happened, and you can hear it from them directly in the video above.
People argue about which are the best waterfalls in Taiwan, but with so many to choose from even the average ones would be major tourist attractions if they were in other countries!
As far as jumping, while the pool itself is quite deep, there is no obvious place to jump from. It may well be jumpable from river right, but there is no trail to a good spot, and we haven't personally tried it as yet. As always, if you do jump, always make sure to check the depth even at places you have jumped before. You never know if something has washed in since the last time you visited!
Rope section between waterfalls 3 and 4
Many people stop at the third waterfall, and that is where the family mentioned above stopped the last time we were there as well. To go further, you have to go up an even more difficult rope section and then down the other side. It is every bit as high as the first two climbing sections, but with lots of loose rocks, so it will be even more important to go one at a time and make sure people don't stand directly under the rope in case of rockfalls.
Enjoying the beautiful scenery between Baoliku River's 3rd and 4th waterfalls in the Gaoyi Waterfall Group
The Fourth Waterfall
(Jumpable AND slidable!)
While not as spectacular as number 3, the fourth waterfall is a whole lot more fun! It has a good, deep swimming pool and there's a great spot to jump from just to River Left of it. AND... YOU CAN SLIDE DOWN THIS WATERFALL! It's a natural water slide! Last time we went, at least eight people slid down it, and I personally went down at least three times. You can see it in the video above!
You'll probably feel like you're going to hit the wall here, but just relax. Don't twist or turn, just ride! You'll be fine as long as you relax!
When sliding this waterfall, make sure to cross your arms across your chest, sort of like a mummy. On the way down, you'll suddenly feel like you are going to hit the wall at about this point, but you won't. The trick is to just ride down smoothly and let the water take you with it. It's only if you try to turn that will throw you off - literally - you will end up twisting backwards and landing wrong, which could be dangerous.
Here's what happens if you DON'T relax at that spot (above)...
...and what happens if you DO relax!
Looking down from the path to the top of the fourth waterfall at one of the two jump spots (see safety note below)
To get to the top, look for the ropes to River Right (right when facing upstream). They are much easier than the other ropes, and you can get up to the top over and over quickly. This will take you to the jump spot on River Left, as well as the sliding spot at the top. It is also possible to jump from the trail (on river right, above, below), but it's advisable to wear a life jacket because the water is just a bit more shallow than would be ideal.
The view at the top of the fourth waterfall, where you start the slide down!
The Second Waterslide
Once you pass the fourth waterfall, you will come to this nice water slide. You have to either try to climb up from the bottom (a little tricky) or go a long way around to get to it, but it's fun.
Josh stops for a photo between the fourth and fifth waterfalls
The Fifth Waterfall
The fifth waterfall is sort of a cross between a true waterfall and a water slide. It's possible to walk right up the River Left side of it or to follow an easy trail with ropes further to the same side (to the right in the picture above). It is definitely slidable from half way, and you can get there by climbing up right next to it. The other group we met said they had slid all the way from the top, but since we have not yet tried that ourselves (we were running out of time), didn't see them, and especially since they got injuries later that day at waterfall 3, I'll leave that to your own best judgement.
View of the fifth waterfall from above
There is also a really high jump from River Right of this waterfall, and while some of the others in our group disagreed, I personally think it is the highest in the Gaoyi Waterfall Group or Baoliku River Areas. Either way, it's a really great jump! To do it, you go up River Left (as above), cross the river, and follow the cliff into the jungle on River Right. I found a good spot with a strong tree to hold on to while getting my footing right for the jump, but there are several spots that would probably work in that area.
The Sixth Waterfall
(NOT jumpable or slidable!)
The sixth waterfall is also the last waterfall. I have personally traced at least twice again as far up the Baoliku River (see map, GPX), and the river just got smaller and smaller, so I am confident that this is almost certainly the last waterfall in the Gaoyi Waterfall Group.
The sixth, and final, waterfall at Gaoyi
There is a good, deep swimming pool, but the rocks along the side and the angle of the cliff face work together to make it pretty much impossible to jump or slide from here. Even still, though, it's a beautiful place, and not too much further beyond the fifth waterfall, so it's absolutely worth taking the extra little bit of time to get to if you've already reached waterfall number five!
Posing for a picture with the other group of tracers we met along the way
Bonus for those who got to the end: See if you can find this cool, natural archway near the sixth waterfall!
All recommendations, times, and other information are for average conditions with average water levels. Please also see important safety notes for river tracing (below).
Length of trace:
1.5 km. You can go much, much further than this, and it is beautiful, but there are no more waterfalls.
4-5 hours in to the sixth main waterfall and out, depending on the fitness and capabilities of the group. You can go much, much further than this, and it is beautiful, but there are no more waterfalls.
It's one big water source the whole way, though with the increased number of visitors in the last few years you might want to consider bringing your own in a bottle. At a minimum, you will want a good water filter. If you decide to drink the water on the trace, it's better to take from a side stream, given how popular this trace has become.
I usually bring a lunch and drink to enjoy on this trace.
Gear and provisions:
River tracing-appropriate shoes and clothes (see remarks), helmets, waterproof backpack, life jackets for anyone who is not a strong swimmer, water filter or other treatment options (see below), a waterproof headlamp or flashlight, a lighter (always!). A basic rope may also be useful, but our group did not find it highly necessary thanks to the ropes already in place.
Useful, though there is good shade along much of the trace. I prefer to have at least sunglasses, and often a hat, on parts of this trace.
Yes, up to the second major waterfall, including the first water slide. Families who regularly do outdoor activities like hiking and river tracing together could try going over the ropes to the third waterfall with children as young as 8 (I have seen a local Taiwanese family do this), but be aware that it is possible to slip on this section. People who are afraid of heights may struggle with this section. Good swimming skills, and possibly life jackets, are highly recommended, so use your best judgement.
Only up to the first waterfall. It is possible you could lift your dog over obstacles as far as the second waterfall, but you will NOT be able to get them to the third waterfall! Use your best judgement.
GPX file: Gaoyi Waterfall System - The Map Room 高義瀑布群-地圖寶庫
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There are some REALLY steep and high rope sections on this trace! They are ok if you know how to do ropes, but they are straight up and down for 5-6 stories or so, so be sure you are ready for them!
Free, convenient parking is available right at the trailhead.
For this trace, I personally drank less than 1 liter at a relaxed pace during spring. Summer would likely need more, though you are in a shaded canyon for a fair amount of the trace and can always take a swim in cool water.
River tracing gear and provisions (for basic not requiring rappelling and rock climbing skills and gear):
Clothes: Should be ok for swimming and getting dirty/torn, protect from scrapes. Quick drying, non-cotton, close fitting. UV reflective for hot traces, wetsuit for colder traces.
Boots: Neoprene or other river tracing specific boots (not shoes, NOT rubber or fishing boots!) to prevent blisters. High tops to keep stones out, soles to provide good grip and prevent slipping. I prefer felt soles for extra padding, especially after prior injuries. Some prefer alternatives which prevent organisms from being transferred between various streams and rivers.
Helmet: Designed for rock climbing.
Backpack: Waterproof. IPX 8 rating (protected when immersed in water over 1 meter / 3 feet) recommended.
Rope: Non-climbing rated, floating rope (that does not absorb water and get heavy) with knots is helpful, but NOT for doing serious climbs. Use ONLY for pulling weaker swimmers through more challenging stretches of water, and perhaps helping with scrambles up short sections of difficult terrain. For advanced climbing or rappelling, get advanced climbing rope, gear, and training!
Life jacket: If you are not a strong and confident swimmer.
Phone case: IPX 8 rating (protected when immersed in water over 1 meter / 3 feet) recommended.
Water filter or other water treatment options.
Waterproof headlamp or flashlight. IPX 8 rating (protected when immersed in water over 1 meter / 3 feet) recommended.
The Map Room recommends Fenix headlamps, and personally uses the 1600 lumen Fenix HM70R Headlamp - (Amazon affiliate link*)
Optional gear: A bandanna, headband, or other light cloth for wiping sweat is also often useful when you are not fully immersed in water.
Choose water from a fast moving, clean source. This kills certain parasites, like giardia. Check upstream for polluting factors (dead animals, droppings, etc). Look for signs of pollution (vehicle tracks, lots of footprints). It's best to filter, and possibly either boil or otherwise treat it as well.
The Map Room personally uses and highly recommends the Sawyer Squeeze water filter (NOT the Sawyer Squeeze Mini - Amazon affiliate link*)
Important river tracing safety notes:
Strength and water levels of rivers change with rain, seasons, and other factors.
ALWAYS check the weather in advance of a river trace. If there is rain upstream, it is not advisable to go, due to the risk of flash floods.
If it has rained recently, rockslides are more likely. If the sun then comes out and evaporates recent rain, they are more likely still. Wear a helmet, and be sensible!
Stopping to rest in rockfall areas, under rock overhangs, or near sheer cliffs is not advisable due to the risk of rockfalls. Look for a wider, open area with less steep rock walls.
So now you're ready to go! Get out there, enjoy nature, be active, and have an amazing time!
Loved this article? Make sure to check out TMR's growing collection of river tracing articles!
Got questions or comments? Can you think of something we missed? Join in the discussion and leave a comment below. At the end of the day, we're just outdoors enthusiasts like you, and we'd love to hear from you!
All information on this page is intended for reference only. Preparing adequate food, water, and gear for your adventure, as well as following local rules and laws are, of course, your own responsibility! Always make sure that you check the weather for outdoor destinations, be careful and sensible for enclosed spaces like tunnels and bunkers, and bring a lighter - you never know when it could save your life! Now... get out there and have an amazing time!
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